USA Water Ski & Wake Sports



Show skiing has been called the most entertaining discipline in the sport of water skiing. It is fast-moving, exciting, graceful, and most of all, fun to watch. Virtually all aspects of the sport – including barefooting, jumping, slalom, tricks and kneeboarding – are choreographed into one grand performance.

In its simplest form, show skiing involves a group of skiers performing a variety of acts with the primary objective of providing entertainment. Even at the most advanced and technically difficult levels (professional shows such as LEGOLAND and Tommy Bartlett's), the basic format and entertainment concepts remain the same.

The Show Ski National Championships gives the best amateur show ski clubs in the country a chance to compete for the coveted national title. As a spectator then, what should one look for at this particular event?

Time is critical in show ski competitions. Each club is allowed 20 minutes prior to its show to set up. At one end of the beach the next club to perform has unloaded its gear and props into a staging area. When their set-up time begins, the entire cast, often as many as 70 people – youngsters, in addition to parents and friends –race about placing thousands of dollars worth of equipment – including sound system, boats, skis, ropes, costumes and stage props – along the beach.

As the set-up deadline nears, a horn sounds warning the crew that it’s almost curtain time. When the second horn sounds, it’s time to begin and the club now has one hour to present its show.

At the conclusion of the one-hour show, the club is then given a maximum of 10 minutes to break down and remove its equipment so the next club can prepare for its show. If everything is not off the beach and out of the staging area, the offending club is given negative points.

Judging the tournament are five certified USA Water Ski & Wake Sports-rated judges. They are selected for their past experience and technical expertise in the field of show skiing.

Once the one-hour timing clock starts, the judging begins. Each club is required to perform a minimum of 13 acts within the one-hour time period. For the most part, clubs will perform a wide variety of acts, both on and off the water.

The announcer, of course, plays a very important role in that he or she is the spectators’ official host. The announcer establishes the environment and tempo of the show and will often play out a character as part of the show’s overall theme. In addition, the announcer has the added responsibility of explaining the acts as they relate to the technical aspects of water skiing.

Most clubs incorporate numerous types of water skiing into their shows, however they generally focus on five major areas which include:

Team Jumping – For spectators, this is the most thrilling event. Usually three to five skiers will perform spins and flips over the 5 1/2-foot ski jump. Distances can exceed 100 feet and frequently spectacular falls occur during this act. Fortunately, the skiers wear protective clothing and know how to handle the falls safely.

Ballet and Swivel – Generally performed by young women, this act features a line of skiers choreographed to music. Some skiers may be using swivel bindings which allows them to make 180-degree turns or 360-degree spins.

Barefooting – Just as the name implies, this act involves skiers skimming across the surface of the water on nothing but the bare soles of their feet. Boat speeds are usually in excess of 35 mph. Watch for multi-skier barefoot lines and barefoot pyramids.

Doubles – Features a man and woman team performing various lifts (similar to ice skating) while being pulled by the boat. The male skier either holds onto a handle or is pulled along by a harness, thus freeing his arms to perform the overhead lifts.

Pyramid – Is the ultimate in team work. Using hundreds of feet of rope, skiers actually build a human pyramid on water. Look for pyramids up to five levels high where the top skier often is 25 feet above the water — a spectacular display of teamwork.

With the variety of acts, skiers and show formats, how does a judge differentiate between clubs and ultimately decide on a winner? Each club is awarded points in two major categories. First, each of the 13 acts is evaluated for:

Flow – How smoothly does an act progress? Clubs attempt to avoid delays and poor boat patterns while maintaining spectator interest (25 points total per judge).

Execution – How well is an act performed? Acts are judged on the technical merit of that particular maneuver (0-25 points).

Difficulty – This is judged by comparing acts of similar type (0-25 points).

Spectator Appeal – Rates the entertainment value of an act and includes the quality of music, costuming, and the performers’ interactions with the audience (0-25 points).

Additionally, each club is evaluated on the following (more commonly called box scores):

Dock and Equipment Personnel – They should maintain a low profile, set up acts smoothly in a timely manner, and keep equipment operating properly (0-100 points).

Pick-Up Boat Crew – Must keep skis and equipment clear from the skiing area, have a low profile, and not create rough water, etc. (0-100 points).

Sound Crew – The host must communicate, entertain, and know the acts (0-250 points).

Towboat Driver – Judged for proper speeds, smooth takeoffs and landings (0-200 points).

Showmanship – The overall production of the show, appearance of the skiers and equipment, stage presence, choreography (0-300 points).

Overall Show – Reflects each judge’s overall opinion of the show, including content and quality (0-350 points).

Now that you know something about how a show ski tournament works, sit back, relax and enjoy the greatest show on water!